Most remember the man as a wiry, fast-stepping and somewhat eccentric individual. One who, in his old age, could be seen daily on our streets routinely picking up trash along the gutter, sweeping the sidewalks and quite frequently in someone’s vegetable garden strenuously laboring without the owner’s permission, weeding what must have seemed to him an unsightly spectacle.
During his later years he was known simply as Uncle Frank King. But in his heyday as a nationally famous marathon runner, he was called Soldier King. In several national publications he was referred to as being a “Champion of Champions.”
Among the memorabilia furnished the Journal by Lewis King, a nephew, are many accounts well worth mentioning. One race, which he ran in Honolulu against a Japanese champion, listed him as losing a five-mile sprint, but the next day came out winner in a 15-mile marathon against the same challenger.
Many of Uncle Frank’s races were run in the Dallas, Texas, area where he resided for a number of years. Prize photos and newspaper accounts are among the possessions now belonging to Lewis King.
One of his most interesting races took place at Judsonia, Arkansas, where he competed against several bicycle riders. Somewhere along the 26-mile course one of the riders ran over Uncle Frank, breaking some ribs and a collarbone. The gritty King got up and beat the cyclists by a great distance. At the time, Uncle Frank was 60 years old.
While Frank didn’t exactly remember the year he was born, his descendents gather he must have been 90 when he died. It indeed is a long time to live and not be recognized up to the last of the greatness he accomplished when he was in the prime of life.
White County Historical Society member Harold Beaver of Fort Smith says his mother Averil Beaver of Roosevelt remembers Frank King as “a fairly small man who would regularly be in attendance at the Roosevelt Cemetery Homecomings the first Saturday in August each year. She remembered that he would get really red-faced working in the cemetery when we had the 'cemetery working' days on those hot days in August. That was before we had the cemetery to the point where it is regularly mowed and maintained. As she recalls, Mr. King was buried at Roosevelt. His name is listed on the Roosevelt Cemetery listing as J.B. Frank King, born 1878 and died 1970. She says that Pops (my granddad Paul King's grandfather Thomas King who raised him when he was orphaned) had at least a couple of brothers. One was Newton King and another was known as 'Pink' King. Pink was Frank King's father.”